Ida Steuer

"The misery that the Jewish people suffered should never be repeated or forgotten.  I want my family to stay Jewish and keep up the Jewish traditions and not to forget about the Holocaust.                                                             "

Name at birth
Adela Ida Richtman
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Name of father, occupation
Adolph, Sold wood and coal for ovens
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Sidonia Mehlman, Dairy Store Owner
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, Lola (sister), Benjamin 'Benno' (brother who now lives in Israel), and me
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
My brother Benno and I survived. On my mother's side, her sister Dora and brother Jacob Mehlman and on my father's side, his brother Zigmund and his family fled to Russia and then later on to Israel
On September 3, 1938, when I was 14 years old, the Germans came to my city, Bielsko-Biala.  We were no longer allowed to go to school; the streets were patrolled by German soldiers.  We had to wear a white armband, white with a blue Magen David (a Jewish star).  We were forced to work for them.
In my city, most people were bilingual.  I grew up speaking German and Polish.  In 1939, my family received a notice that all men from ages 16-50 had to register.  Everyone was nervous and scared.  The registered were told on October 19 to take a backpack, and they would go and work deep in Poland.  They were taken to the city, Nisko, near Lublin.  They took the Jewish men from our district in cattle cars, and sent them away.  They came to Nisko, and were taken to a big field where the Germans started to shoot them.  My father, brother, and uncle ran away to the Russian border.  They were caught and imprisoned by the Russians, but were later released. Then, they ran away, and came to Cracow.  My father was killed in 1942.  My brother hid in a sewer, and later went to the Polish Underground Army.  After the War, he joined the Hagganah and now lives in Israel. 
In 1940, the Jews of Bielsko were forced to leave their homes and go to Wadowice.  I was 16 years old; we lived in very cramped conditions.  I worked in a factory repairing holes for German military garments.  Wadowice became a ghetto in 1942 and I resided there until May of 1943. 
On July 3, 1942 they had a Selection.  The older people were sent to Belzec death camp.  On May 9, 1943 another Selection took place in which the able-bodied young people were taken forcibly, on large trucks to a transit camp, Dulag in Sosnowiec.  I remember the owners of big factories coming to Dulag to look for workers, like looking for slaves.  From there, I was taken to Gabersdorf concentration camp to work in a weaving, textile factory in the Sudetenland.  I lived in Barrack #1, Room #3.  There were forty of us in the room in bunk beds.  Gross-Rosen was the main camp. 
Every morning at 3:30 AM we were counted in the courtyard before work.  Breakfast was black coffee.  I had a hard job, operating machinery, and putting bales of cotton in a machine to make thread.  If you made a mistake they would kill you.  I was 17 years old at the time.  There was a guy watching, I was so scared to make a mistake.  If they blamed you for something, they would send you to Parschnitz, another Gross-Rosen concentration camp as a punishment.  This was a very bad camp.                
We worked from 6 AM till 6 PM.  When we came back, they would give us soup which was more like flour water.  If there was a potato in the soup, you were lucky.  Once a week on Sunday, we were given a piece of horsemeat.  Two times a week, Sunday and Wednesday, we were given a chunk of bread.  We were very hungry and we worked very hard.
On one occasion, an order was given.  Every girl was to take off all of her clothes.  All of the soldiers were sitting and drinking alcohol.  If they liked you, you were taken to the side.  We stood naked, I was left alone.
My parents, sister and relatives, my uncles and cousins were relieved of our property and stripped of all of our rights.  My mother and sister were sent to Auschwitz on August 10, 1943.  My father was hiding near Cracow and pretended to be a Pole.  He had a pseudonym of Owszarkiewicz.  The Polish people turned him in.  My father was murdered in 1942 near Cracow.  My mother and sister were murdered at Auschwitz, Poland in August of 1943.
On May 9, 1945 we were liberated by the Russian Army.
Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Where did you go after being liberated?
I went back home to Bielsko-Biala after the war and lived there till 1964. My husband’s brother who was living in the USA sponsored us to come here. My husband had a good job in Poland, he was a bookkeeper for a meat company
Occupation after the war
Seamstress at Art Knitting Mills
When and where were you married?
Joseph Steuer, Worked for a steel factory
Sydonia Gajda, worked for Shaarey Zedek School
Two grandchildren: Jeff Gajda (purchasing manager for Intel) and Annette Gajda (speech language pathologist) Two great-grandchildren: Gabrielle and Sofia Gajda
What do you think helped you to survive?
I was very optimistic. People would say tomorrow they’ll send us to Auschwitz. I would say how do you know? In the meantime we are still alive. I’m an easygoing person; I have a lot of friends. We stuck together like glue. It was important having friends in the camp. How? One makes the other one happy. We had nothing to share, but to talk; we helped each other get through each day in the camp, and we helped each other keep clean from the lice, from the eyes, arms, we helped each other.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
The misery that the Jewish people suffered should never be repeated or forgotten.  I want my family to stay Jewish and keep up the Jewish traditions and not to forget about the Holocaust.                                                             
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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